Graham Banigan – the award winning science fiction author – recently gave me his permission to reprint one of my favorite books of his for a project I’m doing this semester. Banigan is best known for his numerous youth adventure series, the most popular of them being The Adventures of Cadet Redstart (All about a tiny bird in a space patrol who’s constantly getting into adventures throughout the known galaxy). He has published over 60 works of fiction, 5 non-fiction, and a dozen or so romance novels in his 43 year career.
He’s still hard at work these days (in fact, he has a new book coming out this summer) and he’s very busy, but he was kind enough to let me call him up and record a little interview. I’ve transcribed the interview word for word because I know that his many fans will appreciate the intimate look at one of their favorite authors. And I hope it will also be exciting for those people who have never heard of him. Hopefully this will win him some new fans.
John-Michael: You published your first novel in 1968, is that right?
Graham Banigan: Yes, that’s right. The Madmen of Mars. What a piece of crap. But it sold.
JM: Weren’t you were still in college at the time?
GB: Yeah, I was a sophmore. I published, I think…four short stories and another novel before I graduated in ’70.
JM: Was it hard for you to balance your school work with all that writing?
GB: Not at all. I just ignored my school work. (Laughs)
JM: I’m sure everyone asks you this, but where do you get your ideas? How did you come up with the Cadet Redstart character scpecifically?
GB: You know, I do get asked that all the time, and I’ve never really been able to come up with an answer that satisfies anyone. (Laughs) The truth is that there is no big secret. I think everyone does it differently. I don’t ever really sit down and try to think of ideas. They just sort of hit me all of a sudden. On an elevator, on an escalator, on the stairs. Anywhere really. As for Redstart, well I’ve always been fond of birds in little hats. But who isn’t?
JM: Out of all your work, do you have any personal favorites?
GB: (Clears throat) Oh geez, yeah. Let me think. The Fires of Alzigar is a personal favorite. My favorite Redstart novel is, of course, The Adventures of Cadet Redstart Volume IV: Lost in the City of Caterpillar.
JM: I’m glad you mentioned it because The Fires of Alzigar is one of my favorites. The last lines are really haunting. “And the desert winds blow. Towers rise and towers fall. Yet here stand I. And the fires of Alzigar burn on.”
GB: Wow, you had that memorized? Well you could be reading it, I can’t see you.
JM: (Laughs) No, I actually had it memorized.
GB: You must have a lot of time on your hands! (Laughs) Yeah I was really happy with the way Alzigar turned out. I always meant to write a sequel, but I just haven’t gotten around to it yet. I guess another personal favorite of mine is Upon A Darkling Tide.
JM: You kind of set a record with that one, right?
GB: Yes, and it wasn’t a sales record. (Laughs)
JM: And you still hold the record for longest footnote.
GB: Yeah, 22 pages long. Well it was my first fantasy novel and I just wanted to be thorough. It was also right in the middle of Tolkien Fever here in the states, so I got a little carried away.
JM: In the early 1980’s you took a break from science fiction and fantasy and published 13 romance novels in a row. Could you talk a little about that?
GB: Talk about the stories or…
JM: Just about why you made that decision.
GB: Oh, well I had just gone through a pretty traumatic divorce. I went a little crazy, I guess you could say. I locked myself in my studio over Labor Day weekend and I came out with 13 finished romance novels. I hated them. I hated writing them. The covers were awful. But I felt like it was something I had to do. I don’t think anyone should read them because they’re crap. Absolute crap. In fact, if anyone out there did read them and they want their money back, let me know. (Laughs) No, I’m just kidding. You learned your lesson.
JM: Well I’m just glad you got back to your science fiction right away. Getting all that out of your system seemed to have helped because you immediately came out with Redstart number 14, Cat King Triumphant, which many consider to be your finest work. It won you your first H.J. Kestler Award and got you nominated for the AHPCG Science Fiction Society Award.
GB: Yeah, boy I sure wasn’t expecting that one to be such a big hit, but I was happy that it was. I think you were exactly right when you said that about getting those romance novels out of my system. With all that negative energy out of the way I could get back to writing the stories I really love.
JM: I won’t take up too much more of your time since I know you’re really busy these days. I just wanted to see if you would talk about the new book you have coming out this summer?
GB: Oh, sure. Well I know that vampires are really popular lately, especially with pre-teen girls. So without going into too many details, let’s just say I mixed vampires with mermaids. There’s also going to be some extensive pony riding scenes.